There is robust evidence showing that the association between trauma and psychosis may be causal. This finding raises important questions about the mechanisms linking trauma to psychotic symptoms, and has stimulated a number of trials to determine whether trauma-focused psychological interventions can help psychotic patients. Identifying and measuring trauma-related mechanisms in these patients, and determining the extent to which their amelioration is necessary for effective treatment, is necessary to lead to more effective interventions.
This project will utilize data from the STAR trial, in which 305 participants with distressing psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms were randomly assigned to therapy or Treatment As Usual for 9 months. STAR provides an ideal opportunity to investigate the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying PTSD and psychosis, and how these mechanisms respond to therapeutic intervention. The project will benefit from data from a sub-set of trial participants who completed a week of smartphone-based Experience Sampling Methodology (ESM) (N=155) and underwent fMRI (N=74) pre- and post-therapy.
The findings from this project will enhance the scientific value of the STAR trial by identifying those psychological and neurocognitive mechanisms that must change for psychological interventions to be effective in patients with psychosis who have a history of significant psychological trauma.
Aims: to determine relationships between PTSD and psychosis symptoms and hypothesized psychological and neural mechanisms, and whether symptom improvement is associated with changes in these mechanisms.
Techniques & Skills: Multilevel modelling analyses (ESM), fMRI analyses. The student will have the choice to focus on either and/or ESM/fMRI data, and will have the opportunity to work alongside world-leading, multisite trial team.
Year one: Training in appropriate analyses, literature review, finalising research questions and planned analyses
Year two: Analyses of study hypotheses, write up papers (2/3)
Year three: Finalise analyses, write up papers (1/2) and thesis